DR Narvendra Persad is encouraging Form Six students to research the use of marijuana and its effects because now that the herb has been decriminalised in TT, the topic shall soon be tested as a part of CAPE's communication studies exam. He told them to get familiar with the different types of plants the different hybrids, what it contains and the healing or hallucinogenic capacity.
Persad said the 60 per cent of the population who thought marijuana use was safe should look at Woodstock videos and the 1970’s hippie revolution when people were stoned, zoned out, unemployed, doing nothing and, wasting their life away because they were high on pot.
A consultant with the Adolescent Clinic at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH), Persad rejected the notion that marijuana use by adolescents and vaping are safe as he addressed a group of Form Six students and teachers at Naparima Girls’ High School on Wednesday morning.
Persad said marijuana use had been causing heart attacks and strokes among the 18 to 25 age group.
To illustrate the dangers of the drug, he shared a personal story about one of his 17-year old patients who “took a pull” of marijuana on the insistence of his sister and her friends about seven years ago. The teenager complained of not feeling well, was taken home and was found sometime later by his father dragging on his hands and feet.
“He was brought to the hospital, we did a CT scan. He had a massive stroke. It was so bad he had to undergo emergency surgery and, because the part of the brain that was damaged started to swell so massively, we needed to take out a piece of his skull in order to allow the brain to swell.”
Noting that cocaine usually had that effect on individuals, he said toxicology screening was done but there was no trace of cocaine in the boy's system. The marijuana was what caused the stroke.
“I did some research for that year and there were 12 cases of massive strokes similar to what this boy had,” he told his captive audience.
“The incidents of stroke from marijuana use increases by 40 to 60 per cent in the age group 18 to 25, because we can’t do younger than 18. Have you heard of 18 to 12 getting strokes? No. But with marijuana yes.”
He conceded that medical marijuana has its benefits.
“However, when any drug is allowed into the public, you must undergo a lot of research. It usually takes at least ten to 15 years of research because you need to know what dose would be therapeutic for the individual, what are the potential side effects and how to monitor for any damage associated with that drug.”
“Has that been happening in TT? No,” he answered.
He provided statistics which showed that the offending driver in 60 per cent of accidents in the USA had marijuana in his system. No one is bothering with that in TT. Let’s be realistic, the same people who use marijuana are going to drive. Marijuana is decriminalised but it is illegal to drive when you have it in your system. That’s a big hazard so there are lots of problems with marijuana.”
Noting that one of the big topics presenting among teenagers is vaping, he said recent studies showed the Vitamin E acetate ingredient in the liquid used for vaping has been resulting in acute lung injury.
He said he did not want to ask for a show of hands of how many have tried vaping.
“I am sure five to ten per cent of you have vaped. It is estimated over 15 per cent of teenagers now vape. But have you heard about the problems with vaping?
“Death from acute lung injury,” he said pointing out that he deliberately did not use multi-media images, “because the image of a 15-year-old lung on post mortem is scary. His lungs look as though he baked it.”
Persad said, contrary to popular belief, a single instance of vaping could cause lung injury although he said some people could use it 20 times and nothing happens.
“Its Russian Roulette every time you vape,” he cautioned.